In August, the number of boats reaching Italian shores decreased considerably thanks to Italian funding going to militias attempting to stifle migrants and refugees leaving Libyan shores. But it was an attempt at a quick fix from Italy, as hundreds, if not thousands of migrants and refugees became stuck in eastern Sabratha under terrible conditions, while tensions simmered between human smugglers and the militias suppressing the smuggling.
After a month of suppressing human smuggling, the al-Ammu militia allegedly clashed with smugglers trying to move boats filled with aspiring travelers.
“Pushed by the European Union and Italy, the GNA in Tripoli granted legitimacy to Brigade 48 and al-Ammu. And their rivals — [a group called] the Operations Room and al-Wadi — deemed that unacceptable,” Harchaoui said, noting that “the LNA provided military help.”
On Sept. 17, a paramilitary force attacked al-Ammu’s militia, kicking off a battle that left nearly 100 people dead and many more wounded in addition to the destruction of houses and other vital infrastructure. The LNA-backed Operations Room now controls Sabratha.
“Said differently, Italy interfered. It altered a fragile equilibrium, and the Hifter camp seized the opportunity to make advances,” Harchaoui said.
And now, a couple of weeks after the conclusion of a battle that dragged in all of Libya’s major actors, analysts say Italy’s troubling influence may have further destabilizing effects on Libya.